Post-fire rebuilding – first draft of new County regulations

On Thursday, September 30th, Boulder County government held another update meeting for homeowners and the design and construction community on the status of potential regulations for rebuilding efforts after the Fourmile fire.  The new regulations regarding building permits, site plan review, septic systems and waste disposal were discussed.  Most of the meeting was consumed with discussions and complaints about the State of Colorado’s recent clarifications to waste disposal regulations for potentially asbestos containing material.

Cleanup, Demolition & Deconstruction

The State’s latest directive on this will require that buildings that have been completely destroyed by the fire be treated as assuming asbestos contamination.  Because of the degraded nature of the building materials, no testing will be sufficient to prove, or disprove, the presence of asbestos containing material.  The following procedures will be required:

  • Materials must be wetted to minimize dust; packaged inside a double 6-mil plastic sheeting liner in an end-dump roll-off with the sheeting completely closed over the material once the roll-off is loaded.
  • The roll-off can only be taken to designated landfills.
  • The landfill must be contacted prior to moving the material to confirm waste acceptance and initiate waste profile.
  • Contractors should consult OSHA regulations to determine required training and personal protective equipment that will be required for those handling this material.

These regulations have only recently (within the last week) issued and have come as quite a surprise to homeowners, contractors and the County.  Some folks have already begun filling up roll-offs that may have to be off-loaded and reloaded under the new restrictions.  The number of loads will be significantly increased, greatly adding to the cost of cleanup.  This is an especially egregious regulation for structures built after 1984 when asbestos was no longer used in building materials.

Additional items:

  • In addition, metals can be recycled, but must first be “rinsed”.  I am not sure at this time if this water would then have to be treated or not.
  • Foundation removal will require a State demoliton permit.
  • Deconstruction will not be required although strongly encouraged.
  • No Boulder County permits or fees are required for cleanup.

Site Plan Review, Building Permitting

There will be three-tier system for rebuilds:

  1. For rebuilding in the same basic location, at the same size and height, no Site Plan Review will be required for 2 years, extending the current regulation from 6 months.
  2. For rebuilding in the same location but adding up to 10% of the existing building area, there will be a 2 week streamlined review process.
  3. For rebuilding in a significantly different location or of larger size or height, the normal Site Plan Review process will be required.

Additional planning items:

  • The 2009 IRC code will come into effect in January and will be the acting code at that time.  All rebuilds will have to meet building codes.
  • Sprinklers will be required for any structures larger than 3,600 square feet and this provision may change with the adoption of the new codes.
  • TDCs (Transferable Development Credits) will be available for properties rebuilding under the size threshold.
  • The County’s BuildSmart program will apply to all rebuilds, although there may be some modification for properties requiring renewables because of a building area trigger.

    These planning provisions are not final.  A draft of the provisions listed above will be issued next week, presented to Planning Board on October 2oth and the County Commissioners on the 21st.  These are public meetings and you should attend if you would like to be heard.


more info on post Fourmile Fire rebuilding

Boulder County Land Use department, along with other County resources, just held a informational/brainstorming session with members of the local building and architect community.  The County staff was soliciting ideas from those of us who have been through the permitting process, what steps might be useful to streamline or refine to help fire victims in the rebuilding process.  This was not a meeting were the County dictated the new rules of the road, but rather was a great outreach to genuinely engage the building community about how to make the prospect of rebuilding after the Fourmile Fire less daunting.

foundations first

A couple of dozen architects and builders were in attendence and a lot of really good suggestions were bandied about.  Here is some of what was discussed:


  • Create a streamlined Site Plan Review process for those projects that want to rebuild at a different size or location
  • Resolve coordination conflicts for questions concerning site access with Transportation, Land Use and local fire officials
  • Reduce or eliminate permitting fees
  • Study the Ignition Resistant Construction guidelines and Wildfire Mitigation regulations to determine their relative effectiveness
  • Investigate the vesting of rebuilding rights and their transferability
  • Investigate the use of TDRs (Transferable Development Rights) and how they apply in this instance
  • Relaxed regulations regarding the use of temporary structures on a property for owner’s use


  • Create a faster review and turnaround time on the issuance of Demolition Permits, especially with regard to house debris and trees
  • Review the Build Smart energy requirements to see if all or portions of this can be vacated or relaxed for fire damaged properties
  • Coordinating with the County Health department on the condition of existing septic systems and their re-use
  • Reviewing the documentation requirements for building approval
  • Reviewing the inspection process and timing for sequenced building processes


  • Coordinating the building and design communities to provide clear and effective information to the public
  • Warning the public about the inevitable influx of possibly unqualified and unlicensed contractors taking advantage of the tragedy
  • Creating a database of local professionals – builders and architects and others – available to assist in rebuilding efforts
then framing

The immediate plans for the County are largely focused on providing adequate staff to answer questions and issuing a packet to each effected property owner outlining the known facts about the property and existing buildings – existing house size, access, height, etc.  I think this is a particularly useful project – every homeowner will have a base line package of information clearly detailing the various options for rebuilding approval process and how they impact their specific properties.

Inevitably some of the concerns raised were of a primarily territorial commercial nature.  Architects and builders have been hit particularly hard in this recession and everyone would like more work.  This was far from rallying around this tragedy as a golden goose opportunity, but there is real concern out there that the local building and design community see its far share of the work that will take place.  And to especially the builder’s credit, there is serious concern about unscrupulous and shady builders sweeping in with low prices and crappy workmanship only to pack up and exit town leaving the community to fix and repair shoddy work over the next decade.

plumbing and electrical

The Boulder Green Building Guild is pooling efforts in response and I am sure their website will soon have such information available.  The Land Use Department of Boulder County is doing a superb job in trying to be as responsive as they can and their website will soon have links available as well.  Or drop me a line if you have questions – if I can’t answer it I will point you in the right direction (you can see some of my previous posts on rebuilding requirements by the County)

carpentry and cabinets, more to come...